Contemporary crustal deformation around the southeast borderland of the Tibetan Plateau



[1] We derive a detailed horizontal velocity field for the southeast borderland of the Tibetan Plateau using GPS data collected from the Crustal Motion Observation Network of China between 1998 and 2004. Our results reveal a complex deformation field that indicates that the crust is fragmented into tectonic blocks of various sizes, separated by strike-slip and transtensional faults. Most notably, the regional deformation includes 10–11 mm/yr left slip across the Xianshuihe fault, ∼7 mm/yr left slip across the Anninghe-Zemuhe-Xiaojiang fault zone, ∼2 mm/yr right slip across a shear zone trending northwest near the southern segment of the Lancang River fault, and ∼3 mm/yr left slip across the Lijiang fault. Deformation along the southern segment of the Red River fault appears not significant at present time. The region south and west of the Xianshuihe-Xiaojiang fault system, whose eastward motion is resisted by the stable south China block to the east, turns from eastward to southward motion with respect to south China, resulting in clockwise rotation of its internal subblocks. Active deformation is detected across two previously unknown deformation zones: one is located ∼150 km northwest of and in parallel with the Longmenshan fault with 4–6 mm/yr right-slip and another is continued south-southwestward from the Xiaojiang fault abutting the Red River fault with ∼7 mm/yr left slip. While both of these zones are seismically active, the exact locations of faults responsible for such deformation are yet to be mapped by field geology. Comparing our GPS results with predictions of various models proposed for Tibetan Plateau deformation, we find that the relatively small sizes of the inferred microblocks and their rotation pattern lend support to a model with a mechanically weak lower crust experiencing distributed deformation underlying a stronger, highly fragmented upper crust.